Five Guyanese nationals have been stuck in the Dominican Republic for almost two years now and have had their passports and other documents seized by the authorities there following allegations that they used a vessel for “financial terrorism.”
They were thrown in jail in late September 2018 without any criminal charge brought against them and were only granted bail in January 2019 but the authorities in the Dominican Republic still have control over their passports and so they cannot leave the country.
The five men were scheduled to appear in Court on April 17 but as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the case was postponed until further notice.
The men left Guyana on September 17, 2018, to work on a cargo vessel – The St Jude- in St Martin, the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti.
They first arrived in St Martin where they loaded 1,000 boxes of cigarettes on the vessel, paid the duties and headed off to the Dominican Republic to collect 2,500 cases of water, all of which were slated for Haiti.
Upon arrival in DR on September 22, the authorities carried out the regular inspection of the vessel and did not find anything illegal but still did not grant permission for them to leave.
Instead, the men were left stranded on the vessel for a week before they were arrested and jailed for 98 days.
The men are: the captain, 33-year-old Jason Hamilton of Friendship East Coast Demerara, his brother, 29-year-old Jared Hamilton along with 41-year-old Charan Kadar, 52-year-old Pretam Pamcham and 46-year-old Anthony Grant.
Jason told the News Room that he has been working at sea for over 12 years.
“After carrying out the searches and they found that we had nothing illegal, we were still there on the island without them stamping in our documents, we were there for one week without any explanation,” Jason said.
The authorities then conducted another search on the vessel a week later using sniffer dogs and subsequently arrested the crew.
“They told us they have to detain us, without any reason so they loaded us up and took us straight to the prison, we were locked up for 98 days,” Jason recalled.
While in prison, the owner of the cargo business, Dinesh Bisraj recruited a lawyer who managed to get bail in January 2019.
Jason said the businessman (Bisraj) rented an apartment for them in San Pedro, Dominican Republic, where they have been stuck since without employment or being able to return to Guyana.
“We have tried several times but we haven’t been able to gain employment. I am married and I have three kids home, likewise, my crew members are the sole breadwinners home,” Jason told the News Room.
“The little funds we would have been getting, normally we had to secure friendship with a local person because we don’t have IDs in order to collect the funds at Western Union and MoneyGram.”
Jason said the crew contacted the authorities in Guyana numerous times, but nothing was done to assist them.
“I have contacted the Government in Guyana since June 2019, I have contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they only acknowledge that they receive the complaints and they haven’t been following up,” he said.
He further noted, “we are just basically looking to come home to our families, we cannot provide for them and we aren’t getting anywhere with this matter. All of our clothing and everything is on the vessel and we cannot get access to the vessel, the clothing that we have on is the only clothing that we have.”
Meanwhile, when contacted by the News Room, a Senior Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vernon Robinson said the Government is monitoring the situation with the men.
Robinson said they are also awaiting the results of the court hearing.